The Journal  

2 March 2006

Santiago

Author: Jeremiah

Photographer: Holly

 

Santiago , Chile : Part II

January 31 February 19

During our second visit to Santiago we stayed in the Barrio Brasil, a university neighborhood just east of downtown, where the streets were lined with student bars and grocery stores. For the next three weeks we made the Hostel San Patricio our home. A converted home, the house on Calle Catedral was run by an extended family that included everyone from babies to grandparents, and even a small, wooly white puppy. We stayed long enough at the hostel to watch people come and go, from rowdy, late night partying Canadians to Chilean families on summer vacation.

 

I hold Rolf the community puppy that would wander around the hostel when he wasn't being scooped up by his 4-year-old owner. Photo by Jeremiah.

Santiago , the one place where we spent the most time of our trip, just happened to also be the most expensive. At $26 for two people, our hostel was one of the cheapest places around. An average sit-down meal would run about $8 a person without dessert. Even a quick street snack of a hot dog, French fries and a drink was hard to come by for less than $5. With a grocery store just down the street, we cooked most of our meals in the hostel's kitchen.

Our one cooking exception was a Valentine's Day excursion to Bellavista for dinner. A hip neighborhood just north of downtown across the Rio Mapocho, a muddy, polluted stream of rushing water that forms the northern border of Santiago's central area, Bellavista is filled with expensive stores, clubs and sidewalk cafes and populated by a young crowd whose uniform of choice is 80s American rock band T-shirts. We traveled there by subway.

 

Jeremiah tries to sneak a peek of the computer screen on a mural.

 

The Catedral Metropolitana lights up at night in the Plaza de Armas.

Without a motorcycle, we became accustomed to Santiago 's public transportation systems. The city has a clean and efficient, if limited, subway system that barely travels outside of the downtown area and ends its service at 10:30 p.m. For service later in the day or further out than the subway goes, you have to use Santiago 's buses. Antiquated and well-used, they slide through busy streets with the dexterity of an amusement park ride and are bordered at every stop by street vendors hawking everything from ice cream to calculators. But at about 66 cents for either a subway or bus ride, it's quite possibly the best deal you'll find in Santiago .

We spent our time in Santiago catching up on chores that had been neglected since we were in Mexico, like finding a replacement battery for my electric razor, getting extra sets of cheap sunglasses, laundering clothes, washing our motorcycle gear and stocking up on supplies for the rest of our trip. Each day we traveled to the Plaza Brasil, the local park where we could usually find a reliable wireless signal for our laptop.

 

Many people came out to sit in the shade at the Plaza Brasil.

 

We spent many hours in the Plaza Brasil surfing the internet or chatting with family.

 

Families crowded the dusty paths at all hours at the park.

 

We noticed that many women smoked in Santiago , including the women that ran our hostel.

 

Fancy small dogs, usually attached to their owner by a leash, would mingle and stretch in the Plaza Brasil.

 

Our hang out spot in Santiago.

 

The Plaza Brasil.

 

A pigeon flies up to eat crumbs out of a man's hand as he feeds them on the sidewalk.

No matter where you are in Santiago , the town never lets you forget that you're in the middle of a desert. Our travels south that ended in Los Angeles , had taken us to the edge of Chile 's green and rainy, southern lake district. But back in Santiago , we never saw a drop of rain in three weeks. We were ready for greener horizons when we left the town for the second time, early on a Sunday morning.

 

All photographs © Holly Marcus / Page design by Robin Marcus